By Michael Lanza
Choosing a daypack for hiking can seem overwhelming when you see the dozens of choices available today, which range all over the map in terms of volume, weight, carrying capacity, features, and cost—as well as fit and comfort. Look no further. This freshly updated review spotlights the best daypacks for hiking and offers expert buying tips that explain the subtle differences between packs to help you find the right one for your own adventures.
This article covers a wide range of daypacks, from 15 to 36 liters and 17 ounces to almost three-and-a-half pounds, each one a standout for different reasons and uses. My picks and buying tips are based on personally testing new daypacks constantly through thousands of miles of hiking and more than a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—formerly for 10 years as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.
I think this review will help you find a pack that’s perfect for you—plus you’ll find the best prices at links in this review.
Please share your own experiences with any of these packs, suggest other daypacks, or ask questions in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.
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consider what you need a daypack for. How much stuff will you carry?
That partly depends on where, when, and how far you hike. What kind of pack
design suits your dayhiking style: low- or high-capacity? Lightweight and
minimalist, or with an assortment of pockets and features? Built to carry plenty
of gear, clothing, food, and water, or a light load? Armored for hard abuse, or
mostly for cruising good trails?
Here are some
details to consider when choosing a daypack:
Volume/Capacity—For most three-season dayhikes where you’re carrying the usual stuff (clothing, food, water, some incidentals like a camera), a daypack between 16 liters and 24 liters has enough space, with the lower end of that range best for hikers who prioritize a streamlined, lightweight design, and the upper end of that range for hikers who may need extra space on some hikes. For outings that are unusually gear-intensive—or if you’re carrying stuff for another person—look to a pack with 28 liters or more capacity. If you’re carrying bare essentials in good weather, a 12-liter daypack may be fine; but if you’re trekking hut to hut for several days, you may need a pack in the 36-40L range.Suspension—We all have our own idea of how much weight is comfortable in a daypack, but how much weight a pack can comfortably carry largely depends on its internal frame (if there is one) and suspension (the shoulder straps and waist belt). Super light daypacks—under roughly 1.5 pounds—typically offer minimal support, and putting more than 10 to 12 pounds inside may compromise their comfort, which simply means that your body will feel the weight more. Daypacks designed to carry upwards of 15 to 20 pounds or more comfortably typically have a metal wire frame and/or a plastic framesheet to maintain the pack’s shape and direct most of the weight onto your hips, as well as adequately padded shoulder straps and waist belt.Fit—As with backpacks, fit is
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